A Parking Reprieve in D.C

Article excerpt

The D.C. Public Works Department's aggressive parking-ticket campaign has for more than a decade been viewed - by city officials, of course - as a cash cow. Hire hundreds of ticket-writers at low wages, then launch an all-out war on motorists. The hundreds of millions of dollars is then dumped into the city's cash-strapped coffers - at the expense of residents, visitors and businesses alike. Of course, nobody bothers trying to compute how much business the city has lost to the 'burbs as a result. But let's just say it's one more reason not to be here or come here.

As it happens, by now nearly 2,000 of the city's parking meters have been knocked out of commission by thieves and angry motorists, costing the city some $3 million in "lost" revenue in 1996. Street people and motorists are the likely culprits.

But for that criminal element, the last laugh would be on the District. "We've got to do something," says D.C. Council member Harold Brazil. "They need to be staked out. We need to catch a few of these people, get some publicity on the arrests, and put 'em in jail. Now, I don't approve of this, but I have a theory - I think this is a function of the greed that has driven the parking-enforcement process over time. People are just fed up."

Ka-ching. All told, motorists plunked $12.5 million into the city's 16,000 parking meters in 1995 and paid $46 million in parking tickets. The drop in parking revenues began last year, when public works hired 20 more ticket-writers to launch an assault on residential neighborhoods and began reviewing proposals to do the same on cars with handicapped drivers. …